Category Archives: Retronauts Micro

Retronauts Micro 59: The return of Atari’s SwordQuest

Confession time: I had a dual motive in mind when I invited Chris Sims of War Rocket Ajax and The ISB to join us for the most recent episode of Retronauts. One, he knows a lot about Batman, making him a perfect foil for our Batman-centric episode. But also, he’s the cowriter of Dynamite Comics’ upcoming SwordQuest series. With issue Zero due out in a couple of weeks, now seemed like a perfect opportunity to explore one of the most fascinating game stories of the Atari 2600 era.

I don’t want to spoil the plot of this episode, but Atari intended for SwordQuest to comprise four separate games — episode gaming in the Bronze Age of the medium! — with incredibly valuable prizes attached to a complex set of puzzles tied to each game and its accompanying comic book. But, as has been the case with pretty much all episodic games not published by Telltale, the SwordQuest saga didn’t quite come to fruition… though in this case I’m gonna go ahead and say that wasn’t Atari’s fault. Or at the very least, that it was their fault for fomenting the circumstances that led to SwordQuest fizzling out, but that they really did have admirable intentions with this project.

In any case, the four-game SwordQuest series ultimately pooped out at three entries, and no one really knows what happened to the fabulous prizes that were created and promoted but never handed out. And that, in fact, is the real SwordQuest saga now; Chris’ comic project isn’t a continuation of the in-game story, but an exploration of the story around the games. It definitely sounds worth looking at, and I’m not just saying that because one of the writers was cool enough to join us for this episode.

Episode description: Jeremy and Benj discuss the history of Atari’s fascinating, extravagant, and incomplete SwordQuest series with (literally!) one of the authors of the game’s new comeback: Comics scribe Chris Sims.

MP3, 24.9 MB | 50:27
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As for music this time around… well, SwordQuest (being at Atari 2600 release) didn’t really have music to speak of, so I couldn’t pillage the game for interstitial tunes. But a chronicle is kind of like a quest, right? So I threw in some spacey jams from Hawkwind’s Chronicles of the Black Sword (which is about a totally different fantasy saga, namely Elric of Melnibone — but who’s counting?). Ah well, whatever. Enjoy.

Note: Sorry about the lack of an embedded stream in this post. Our host changed the layout of their pages sometime in the past few days and their embed option appears to have vanished! We’re looking into it.

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Retronauts Micro 58: Zelda Treasure Jingle Quiz

Hey everyone, this Micro episode is a little late this week; we both spent all day on airplanes en route to Midwest Gaming Classic. Thanks for bearing with us, and enjoy the show.

Episode description: Since we’ve all got Breath of the Wild on the brain, why not celebrate The Legend of Zelda’s most unsung musical moments? On this episode of Retronauts Micro, join Bob Mackey, Chris Antista, Henry Gilbert, and Brett Elston as the crew assembles to put their knowledge of Zelda’s famous “doo doo doo DOOOO” ditty to the test. You know the one we’re talking about.

MP3, 13.5 MB | 28:09
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This episode’s sponsors include: BarkBox, Audible, and Casper Mattresses

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Retronauts Micro 57: A Blaster Master retrospective and Blaster Master Zero review

A game review? On Retronauts? It’s more likely than you think. In fact, there’s one right here.

But this is not your typical game review — it’s a game review that takes the form of a podcast, and the review itself has in turn been commingled with a retrospective. My hope is that it’s a review format you could only experience here in the one, the only… Retronauts.

Is it a good review format, though? Or one that you only find here because it’s a ridiculous concept and no one else would ever bother. I leave that as an exercise to you, the listener, to determine.

So, yes. Episode 57 of Retronauts Micro is a two-part affair: First, a retrospective of the original Blaster Master, including some handy context to help explain why the game had such impact and remains so well-liked, and a loose rundown of its sequels. The second part (after the obligatory ad break) delves specifically into the new Inti Creates remake, Blaster Master Zero. My goal here was to create a chunk of game commentary that upholds the Retronauts goal of tying present to past, while also taking advantage of the fact that this venture is, ultimately, about the podcast.

It’s about 30 minutes long in total, so it goes into pretty considerable detail without (hopefully) wearing thin its welcome with your ears. So please have a listen!

Episode description: It’s a different application for the Retronauts Micro format this week as Jeremy uses the show to present a review of the newly released Blaster Master Zero alongside a series retrospective.

MP3, 14.6 MB | 31:46
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Retronauts on iTunes
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And that wraps it up for me for a little while. You’ll be glad to know Bob’s back on duty next week with a look at celebrity video games, and he’ll be handling the next Micro as well (two weeks from now). So you can enjoy a bit of a respite from my monotone drone…

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Retronauts Micro returns with a double-length episode

Well, I say “double-length,” but Bob has been stretching the definition of “Retronauts Micro” for quite a while now, so I suppose you’re used to “Micro” episodes being nearly half the length of a full episode by now.

But, anyway! Because you demanded it, Retronauts Micro has indeed made its grand and glorious return. Not that it was gone all that long. Nevertheless, to mark the occasion I’ve put together what is by far the most involved and complicated Micro I’ve ever produced. It’s a follow-up to the FM synthesis episode from a few months back, which means it centers around music. And lots of it.

This episode offers a very loose overview of the use of sampling in video games, exploring a large number of permutations and tripping a bit over the ambiguity of some of the terminology used on the tech side. Before that, though, I’ve outlined the history of sampling as a concept as well, since the concept has a significant existence outside of gaming — though of course it has to a certain degree evolved and developed alongside video games. Eh, I’m making a mess of this. Just have a listen to the episode. It’s nearly half an hour in length and incorporates dozens of examples (and samples). And, of course, that one track that EarthBound blatantly just stole from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

(Incidentally, it seems like PodcastOne’s system has a habit of overwriting custom episode art with the generic show art, so if you’re into the individual covers we create, you can snag the one above and add it yourself. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

Episode description: Retronauts Micro returns on a biweekly schedule! Jeremy kicks things off with a follow-up to last year’s look at FM synthesis in games by exploring a flip side: A brief (and at all comprehensive) history of audio sampling vis-a-vis video games.

MP3, 12.7 MB | 25:31 | Direct download
Retronauts on iTunes | Retronauts at PodcastOne

Music in this episode comes from… oh boy, where do I even begin? There’s a ton — and by no means is this list a comprehensive breakdown of all the examples I could provide.

  • Revenge of Shinobi
  • SoulBlazer
  • EarthBound
  • Psycho Soldier
  • Summer Carnival ’92: Recca
  • Pierre Schaeffer “Apostrophe”
  • The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”
  • The Beach Boys “Caroline No”
  • Pink Floyd “Money”
  • King Crimson “In the Court of the Crimson King”
  • Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”
  • David Bowie “Space Oddity”
  • Yes “Siberian Khatru”
  • King Crimson “Epitaph”
  • Genesis “Watcher of the Skies”
  • Gentle Giant “Free Hand”
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra “Computer Game”
  • Rick Wakeman “Catherine Parr”
  • Rally-X
  • King & Balloon
  • Ghostbusters (Commodore 64)
  • Wild Gunman
  • Ninja Gaiden (NES)
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  • Otocky
  • Quadrun
  • Journey (Arcade)
  • Super Mario Kart
  • ActRaiser
  • Final Fantasy VI
  • Jet Grind Radio

Yeah, OK, I think that’s it. Whew, I’m fried. Enjoy the show, and there’ll be the usual full-length production on Monday… which also is about music. It’s like a theme or something.

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Podcast: Bust-A-Move, Puzzle Bobble, or whatever you wanna call it

It’s the epic conclusion to last week’s amazing episode! Eh, well, OK, maybe I’m fudging things a bit. But I did promise after last week’s talk of Bubble Bobble that I’d follow up with a piece on sequel Puzzle Bobble, and by cracky that’s exactly what we have here. Of course, most of our listeners are based in the U.S., so you probably know this series by its inexplicable localized title, “Bust-A-Move.”

Whatever you want to call it, however, it’s good stuff. A real, weapons-grade, match-three kind of affair. It has only the most tenuous connection to Bubble Bobble, of course, which means you might occasionally come across an adaptation in which developer/publisher Taito has replaced Bub and Bob with, say, the cast of the Azumanga Daioh anime.

Or, more likely, you’ll come across shameless ripoffs in which outside developers have (without shame or apology) replaced Bub and Bob with completely unrelated characters and made a fat stack of cash by stealing Taito’s work. Such as Snood, the extraordinarily ugly clone that served as my introduction to the series thanks to the magic of Macintosh shareware.

What a world.

Even if you’ve never played legitimate Bust-A-Move or Puzzle Bobble releases, odds are pretty good that you have experienced the series’ concept in some form. Colored orbs advance toward the bottom of the screen, and you have only a pivoting launcher anchored at the center-bottom of the play field with which to fling bubbles back into the screen in an attempt to clear the encroaching threat by creating color matches. A pretty mundane description, perhaps, but the game is so terribly addicting.

Having survived the Bubble Bobble episode, Jeremy mops up the franchise with a look at its most popular (or at least most imitated) branch: The iconic color-match puzzler Bust-A-Move… more sensibly known as “Puzzle Bobble.”

Libsyn (14:39 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

Much this week comes from a panoply of Puzzle Bobble sequels. Yes, I realize it’s annoyingly upbeat, but that’s what I had to work with. When life gives you lemons, create saccharine lemon desserts. Don’t worry, next week’s episode will include much better music.

This week also marks my return to creating episode cover art after nearly a year away. You’ll be happy to know Nick Daniel will still be illustrating Bob’s episodes, though, so those of you who prefer his more vivid digital compositions to my washed-out watercolors aren’t totally out of luck.

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Retronauts Micro #053: Donkey Kong’s Day in Court

For this week’s Retronauts Micro episode, I’ve formally visited a topic that’s popped up on the show from time to time, but which we’ve never discussed in any real depth. It’s been pretty well documented over the past decade that Donkey Kong — the arcade version, that is — was co-created by a third party, and this knowledge has led to speculation that the original coin-op game never shows up as an archived release due to this legal dispute.

While no new information has actually emerged since the Game Developers Research Institute posted its write-up of the situation about five or six years ago, with this episode I’ve attempted to put together a “what we know” synopsis that contextualizes the few hard facts that have emerged with some valuable context… including Nintendo’s reliance on outside contractors in its early video game days, and the uncertainty of copyright law as concerned game code back at the time of Donkey Kong‘s debut. Hopefully you’ll find it enlightening — and if not, well, you can look forward to next week’s episode, wherein we have an actually listenable conversation about Sonic the Hedgehog. For once.

Episode description: Enjoy this delightful yarn about the legal wrangling over the matter of Donkey Kong’s true parents. Is Shigeru Miyamoto really his dad? And who has custody over this simian tyke, anyway?

Libsyn (14:42 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

Remember that this rad show is made possible by a communal cash infusion through Patreon! (We’re not greedy, we’re just game journalists who can’t afford to create a high-grade cross-country podcast out of pocket.)

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This week: Ninja Five-O. Next week: Samurai CHiPs

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This video took much longer to put together than I had intended or hoped, so I’m far too tired to write about it. I will let this episode speak for itself:

And you old-fashioned types can do the usual audio-only thing, I guess:

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Libsyn (11:09 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes! Support us on Patreon!)

Episode Description

Jeremy dives into Game Boy Advance classic (and overpriced rarity) Ninja Five-O, a game that probably should never have existed. But isn’t it nice that it does?

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The latest Retronauts Micro arrives in two delicious flavors…

…audio flavor, and video flavor.

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Q*Bert is such an abstract, visual game, it would seem sort of ridiculous not to include images while discussing it, right? So, for this week’s Retronauts Micro, I’ve upgraded the mini-podcast to a mini-video as well.

Though of course, the audio version remains for you purists in the audience.

Moving forward, I hope to produce video versions of all my Micro episodes. Bob seems to have a good thing going with his mixtape episodes, so I imagine those will remain audio-only, but my own productions tend to be less inspired. Thus, I’m fancying them up with visuals. If I have time (ha!) I’d also like to go back and rework my older Micro episodes into videos as well.

Download Links

Libsyn (8:34 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud )

Episode Description

Journey back in time to 1982 and the sassiest mascot character ever to cuss up an arcade: Q*Bert. And if this episode seems a bit brief, well, be sure to check out the video version on retronauts.com or usgamer.net!

The music in this week’s audio version comes from Q*Bert 3. It’s not very good music—it’s actually kind of annoying!—but what can ya do?

As a reminder, the Retronauts project is made possible through Patreon! I also have posted some of the original podcast cover illustrations up for sale, if you’d like to give someone the gift of slightly amateurish video game watercolors this holiday.

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Retronauts double-header

micro 21 cover

Hey! I forgot to post last week’s episode here! Oh well. Now you get two at once.

First: The latest episode, a Micro look at Namco’s Rolling Thunder. You kids seem to like Bob’s music-heavy episodes, and as it happens this game has rad-as-hell music. So rock on out to this one. I wonder if all the great music in this game informed Sega’s decision to make the bad guys in Space Channel 5 basically look like the Maskers in Rolling Thunder…?

Download Links

Libsyn (17:36 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud )

Episode Description

Jeremy looks back on Namco’s clasic arcade action game Rolling Thunder, the quintessential old-school take on “spy action” before Metal Gear redefined the genre to mean “stealth.”

EPSON MFP image

Aaaand speaking of Metal Gear, here’s last week’s episode, featuring Shane Bettenhausen and Jose Otero on Hideo Kojima’s long-running stealth franchise. See what I did there?

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Libsyn (1:57:36 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud )

Episode description

As an era ends with the release of Metal Gear Solid V, Shane Bettenhausen and Jose Otero join us to wax rhapsodic about the unique history on gaming’s longest-running saga. No haters or Hayters allowed!As an era ends with the release of Metal Gear Solid V, Shane Bettenhausen and Jose Otero join us to wax rhapsodic about the unique history on gaming’s longest-running saga. No haters or Hayters allowed!

Enjoy, and remember that you can listen to next week’s episode early by supporting us on Patreon. But it’s cool, you can also just wait a few days and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the episode all the same.

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The real knowledge was Treasure

micro 17 cover

 

Wow! This episode’s a day late. It’s getting to be a cool trend. Tardiness is gonna be all the rage in 2016, and we’re leading the way.

This episode of Retronauts Micro focuses on a company whose games I’ve never really gotten into but for whom I have tremendous respect: Treasure. The studio has been pretty quiet of late, working on Capcom’s Gaist Crusher series and presumably working with M2 on the 3D Ages version of Gunstar Heroes… but hopefully they have something fresh up their sleeves. They’re too talented to languish in obscurity, especially since the kind of challenge and mechanical complexity they deal in has become quite popular among a certain set of gamers.

Download Links

Libsyn (12:38 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud )

Episode Description

Jeremy takes a look at one of gaming’s great studios, whose work seems to have been largely forgotten in this day and age. Will Treasure rise again, or will their two-decade collection of brilliance stand as their legacy?

Music this time around comes from Hitoshi Sakimoto’s Gradius V soundtrack — not really typical treasure fare, but just a fantastic piece of music all around.

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